The effects of climate change remain a common discussion point in today’s society, as all forms of broadcasting continually highlight that we must be mindful that our current routines are ruining the planet as we know it. This is something the left should celebrate; forcing climate change deniers to retreat into sectarian cluster groups that bear little relevance or influence upon society is a victory that should not be taken lightly and positively celebrated. However, we should also remain acutely aware that there is a need to continually agitate and organise towards the vanguard position on all matters concerning climate change.
Capitalism has obscured the debate, with many prominent figures in media, employment and electoral capacities attempting to reduce our horizons to the level of the individual, advocating personal responsibility and detail as the most effective solution to solve such a crisis. Marxists should unapologetically combat this narrative, remaining insistent that individual action must be linked to a wider movement that collectively tackles the structure and overarching framework of the capitalist mode of production itself in the battle to freeze or reverse the terrifying prospect that now faces humanity.
This is particularly apparent in the strategy towards curbing the influence of plastic within our society. Many environmental documentaries and indeed state media channels have devoted countless amounts of hours towards producing harrowing footage of natural habitats facing destruction beyond repair, the extinction of exotic wildlife and indeed the devastation of indigenous homelands because of global carelessness regarding single-use plastic and other products. This is undoubtedly true, but a continuing view that we must simply boycott plastic straws, cups and cutlery and replace them with more environmental alternatives is simply a sticking plaster rather than an antidote.
There is much to be said for purchasing a reusable coffee cup or a bamboo toothbrush to negate an individual’s ‘plastic footprint,’ but unless it is linked to a wider consciousness about how it is actually produced in the first place we have little hope of solving the issue. Multi-million corporations of the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industries produce endless amounts of plastic packaging on an annual basis, incentivised by cheaply assembling products to maximise profits and perpetually push towards becoming the market leader within their sphere of influence. More still, as society continues to succumb to the influence of free market politics, in which production falls within the jaws of the anarchic world market and produced for the sake of financial reward rather than human need, an endless stream of single use plastic will continue to blight humanity, no matter how effective the boycott.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and without a democratically planned mode of production that is managed and controlled by workers, we have little hope of reversing the plastic statistics that are currently blighting our surroundings. Marxists should continue to lead campaigns on this issue, publicly articulating that placing the burden of responsibility squarely upon the shoulders of consumers within the conditions of late capitalism is a farce, and that we must challenge the perceived untouchability of high-flying capitalist oligarchs and collectively seize the means of production to democratically control not just the production of plastic, but of all the basic needs and services that humanity requires.
The idea that individual reasoning should remain an integral foundation of all campaigns against climate change also deflects attention away from the fact that our current surroundings are a product of careless decisions on the part of the ruling class, and not the wider population at large. There is a huge amount of truth in the claim that everyone has a duty to provide an acceptable level of surroundings for future generations, but without examining how society has managed to arrive at such a sharp crossroads that threatens the entire future of humanity would be a grave mistake that cannot negate the potential of further environmental errors in the future.
The planet is in a state of crisis because the production of true sustainability is not profitable; the big businesses that monopolise energy facilities, fuel consumption and transport services knowingly produce and encourage the use of fossil fuels that are continually pushing the world’s temperature to record heights for the simple reason that a saturated world market and crisis-ridden global economy will financially reward them for doing so. The subsequent profit that is literally killing the planet sits idly in off-shore bank accounts and lucrative hedge funds until such time that a further investment opportunity arises, creating a hamster wheel of arbitrary production that is slowly strangling humanity and suffocating our natural surroundings.
Only one hundred companies are responsible for over 70% of the world’s greenhouse emissions since the early 1970’s, each vying competitively with each other to produce energy supplies for the sake of financially rewarding a select few bosses, bankers and big businessmen. It is time to take the money out of their hands and pockets, and instead of trying to encourage capitalists to invest in new, green technology and energy emission programs that go against their own interests, all major companies and banks should be immediately nationalised and placed under democratic workers’ control, as part of a wider strategy to not only tackle the erroneous decisions that are harming the planet, but to uproot the conditions of the capitalist mode of production itself.
Marxists should remain unambiguously clear that the international working class should not have to shoulder the responsibility or the blame for the poor decisions of those who privately hoard the means of production, and that an organised assault of labour can overhaul the system that is destroying the planet, subsequently allowing workers to plan sustainable energy programs that will place the use of fossil fuels into the dustbin of forgotten history.
It is also extremely clear that the ongoing social pattern that divides the international working class along arbitrary nationalist lines is another extremely dangerous factor in a world hurtling towards climate disaster. Creating an individualised approach that prioritises strengthening the nation state over humanity’s future is not only holding back our cooperative potential, but hindering all aspects of our existence to the direct detriment of our environmental surroundings.
As much as the market economy of late capitalism continues to become more globalised in modern times, the absence of a truly binding international code of conduct has encouraged state governments and their national advisors to continually engage in an ongoing feud for material resources and the protection of national tariffs, leading to the obscure situation that both production and trade remain uncontrolled whilst a lack of actual planning of resources leads the planet into endless wars of competition between states and their governments.
This ironic but inevitable repercussion of the capitalist mode of production is inflicting continual damage to the planet; the arbitrary production of weapons that forms an ugly side effect of the competitive nature of material distribution is not only inherently wasteful and rooted in nationalist doctrine, but their incessant use is creating a planet earth that is quite simply sweating its way to oblivion. The environmental aspects of this are already affecting social conditions; unusual weather patterns that are leading to unexplained forest fires and tsunamis across the globe are affecting the lives and routines of millions, and subsequently creating an insular environment that heightens the role of national immigration programs that refuse to cooperate with those outside their lines of division.
It is more profitable to criminalise, jail and deport those who are affected by climate disaster in our current conditions, with financial rewards and profitable bonuses the direct result of outsourcing and privatising national immigration offices that are steeped in the very racism and division that capitalism thrives upon. If the ongoing pull of nationalism propped up by capitalism continues to divide humanity amidst a climate crisis, the horrific consequences will include not only an ongoing epidemic of working class murder as the international capitalist class continually uses the lure of flags in their lust to war for resources, but divide humanity to such an extent that we will literally prefer to watch our international brethren burn and drown into extinction rather than intervene appropriately.
As Marxists, we must vociferously call for an end to the endless nationalist rhetoric that is dividing the human race, opposing all forms of capitalist war that send the international working class to fight for causes that are not their own, whilst organising towards a socialist revolution in national states that can be exported at the first opportunity to strengthen the international fight for socialism and topple the system that is sending the planet to an early grave.
It is also abundantly clear that we should warn against those who advocate individualist solutions to climate change in the sphere of electoral politics. The mainstream green movement fails because it continues to deny that climate change is a collective, and ultimately class issue that requires a radical overhaul of our current surroundings to halt its despotic influence. Electoral representatives of international Green Parties continue to peddle a dangerous line that insists that the continuing growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) statistics under a Keynesian style economic approach is the most effective way of halting climate change, and ultimately reform society as a result.
This is a dangerous message; the idea that state governments should intervene more authoritatively in the management of market production, redirecting capitalist profits towards the public purse and subsequently reforming the system rather than overthrowing it entirely, is a strategy that will only delay the worst aspects of climate disaster rather than eradicate their impending prominence. The natural world continues to suffer because of unchecked GDP growth and a succumbing to market dominance, and the idea that capitalists are interested in anything but profitable markets is pie in the sky.
With or without state intervention, big businessmen under the capitalist mode of production will continue to destroy the world’s natural habits that act as sustainable cooling mechanisms in the pursuit of profitable opportunities, and a strategy that encourages society to cross an electoral box in favour of reformism is simply treating workers as individualised voting opportunities to effectively and insidiously preserve the capitalist system that destroys the planet on a daily basis.
As international green parties continue to stubbornly propose ineffectively reformist, electoral strategies that promote individual reasoning as the groundwork to tackle climate change, Marxists must be resolutely determined in the challenge to call out their careerist opportunism. We must link the overall fight against climate change with the ongoing campaign to collectively liberate the international working class; the class antagonisms that are so visibly exposed in the attempt to preserve the capitalist mode of production by reformist and neo-liberal advocates must be ruthlessly challenged and expropriated, creating space for not only socialism to blossom, but the shoots of natural life that will save the planet from total destruction.
In short, the international working class must seize the means of production to truly guarantee the ongoing preservation and survival of our planet. Linking climate change to a campaign that endorses the logic of individual reasoning over collective action is simply not enough to halt its despotic consequences, and Marxists should remain resolutely determined to agitate and organise in pursuit of linking climate change to anti-capitalist action, positively reinforcing that the protection of our natural surroundings is just as much a class issue as any other.
No strategy that links halting the planet’s demise to the capitalist mode of production can be successful; combatting climate change requires a green movement that is the deepest shade of red, and we ultimately need to implement lasting international socialism to truly save the planet from total destruction. It is time for workers everywhere to unite and fight towards these conditions, breaking national lines to create a sense of solidarity that will truly link climate change protests to their rightful place of development at the heart of production. We need system change, not climate change – and the planet’s future lies in the collective hands of the international communist movement.